Experience Design

Perficient Digital Sponsors World Information Architecture Day

The Digital Essentials, Part 3
The Digital Essentials, Part 3

Developing a robust digital strategy is both a challenge and an opportunity. Part 3 of the Digital Essentials series explores five of the essential technology-driven experiences customers expect, which you may be missing or not fully utilizing.

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Perficient Digital was a proud sponsor of World Information Architecture Day on February 18. WIAD was a one-day conference held simultaneously in cities around the world. Perficient Digital sponsored 3 locations: Ann Arbor, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
160 attendees flocked here in L.A. Presentations frequently touched upon best practices in research for information architects. The following topics – and quotes – were my personal favorites.
1. You Need User Research
Jaime Levy, professor and author of the acclaimed book “UX Strategy,” shared her experiences designing for the open source Hyperloop project. A key takeaway? Though Elon Musk’s Hyperloop may be viewed as an incredible technical ambition, it demands equal attention to the human experience. Last year, Jaime and her students at USC generated user interface concepts for future Hyperloop riders. As Jaime put it: “A unique kick-ass customer experience coupled with the right business model can define a ‘disruptive’ product or service.” Thus, customer experience is not a derivative of a new business model. It is a component of the model itself.
Jaime’s framework for UX strategy begins with a business hypothesis about target consumer needs, followed by field research with real people for corroboration. Later in the day, Eugene Kim of QuanticMind quipped that only 5% of user research is done in the field. I was extremely surprised by this figure. For experience professionals, it’s imperative to go out and actually speak with users.
2. You Need Both Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Nate Bolt, author of “Remote Research,” presented the importance of user research. I’m cheating here since Nate actually quoted Mark Zuckerberg. But here’s what Facebook’s CEO said: “We conduct quantitative research to test our assumptions, and qualitative research to learn what we don’t know.”
A simple but great quote. One of the most successful digital companies of our generation openly promoting both quantitative and qualitative methods. As an aside, there’s a misconception floating around that Apple doesn’t do usability testing, and therefore none of this stuff matters. In practice, Apple skimps on market research – like Henry Ford asking customers if they want a faster horse – and absolutely invests in user research, usability testing and analytics. Yes, these professionals exist.
Why does research matter? Jaime and Nate both reminded me of another author, Richard Rumelt, who wrote: “Generally available functional knowledge is essential, but because it is available to all, it can rarely be decisive. The most precious functional knowledge is proprietary, available only to your organization.”
Research generates proprietary insights. Fittingly, Richard Rumelt is a professor down the road at UCLA’s business school. Not one of those touchy-feely designer types! He’s the author of the business guidebook, “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy.” For all of us who work in digital, it all ends up being about insights regardless of our backgrounds.
3. Make Your Pictures Strategic, Not Just Pretty
Eric Beteille, a senior content strategist at Disney, shared a wonderful checklist for leveraging photography in user experience design. I thought that this presentation beautifully illustrated quantitative and qualitative practices in action. Eric shared research-backed quantitative principles like dividing a photo canvas into thirds for maximum effect. What’s more, he explained the psychological aspects of compelling photos. Emotional content. Unusual subject matter. Authentic images versus stock photography. He even showed eye-tracking heatmaps from past research to support his assertions. This was a great checklist for anyone involved in visual design, user experience, content strategy, and even marketing.
Here at Perficient Digital, we are delighted to have sponsored a wonderful WIAD event this year. For those who attended in L.A., we hope to see you again next year.

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